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The Detroit Lions may have the best roster in the NFC North

It's that time of the offseason when 2020 NFL Power Rankings begin to circulate more heavily. PFF released a set of Too-Early 2020 NFL Power Rankings prior to the NFL Draft. Back then, we slotted the Detroit Lions 27th, which isn't far from where major media outlets have ranked them since. In ESPN’s iteration from early May, the Lions come in at 28th; Dan Hanzus of Around the NFL had Detroit at 30th; Peter King slotted the Lions in at 26th in a recent Football Morning in America column.

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The Lions are almost universally expected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL. But the more I look at the situation, I can’t help but feel like the NFC North is wide open. It wouldn't surprise me if any of the four teams won the division, and I'm honestly not convinced that the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings or Chicago Bears have a better roster than Detroit.

Considering that the Lions went 3-12-1 last season and have roughly +6,000 odds to win the Super Bowl this year, this is not a popular opinion. Here's the reasoning.

The Lions were competitive with Matthew Stafford last season

Let’s take a trip through the start to Detroit’s 2019 season.

Those were the results with Matthew Stafford at quarterback — before fractured bones in his back sidelined him for the remainder of the 2019 season. Of course, Detroit would go on to lose the remainder of its games with David Blough and Jeff Driskel under center. But this was not your typical three-win team. The Lions were competitive even in their losses with Stafford, pushing two teams that earned first-round byes in Kansas City and Green Bay. Both were games they very well could have won.

Stafford’s play and the return of a gunslinger mentality — one that didn’t involve an abundance of reckless mistakes à la the quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — was a big reason for Detroit’s competitive play early on.

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